The Independent Interview: Day Bracey on equity, Barrel & Flow, and why Rick Sebak is “a fucking professional”

"That was a podcast that went left, and Ricky Sebak brought it back right."

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Why Rick Sebak is “a fucking professional.”
Day Bracey. Photo: Buzzy Torek / Epicast.

Day Bracey finally caught the ‘rona.

“I don’t mind this particular strain,” he says, over Zoom, wearing a knit gray hat and an IUP Crimson Hawks hoodie.

“I’m triple-boosted, right? I had about two days of some really light aches. I’ve been smoking a lot of weed and drinking a lot of fluids and like, it really hasn’t been as terrible as I thought it would be.”

This is some rare downtime for Day, co-host of the Drinking Partners podcast (returning in June), co-host of the Very Local video series, Ed and Day in the ‘Burgh (season one now available on mobile), and founder of Barrel & Flow Fest, returning to Pittsburgh August 13, 2022 at The Stacks at 3 Crossings in the Strip District. 

This year’s festival will be headlined by Soulful Femme (Pennsylvania), Blvck Hippie (Tennessee), Chris Allen and dozens of other Black musicians, artists, chefs, and entrepreneurs, alongside dozens of local Pittsburgh breweries in collaboration with Black-owned breweries nationwide. (One standout: a long-anticipated first appearance from Rock Leopard Brewing, from South East London, who will collaborate on a beer with Brooklyn hype brewery Other Half.)

Now in its fourth year IRL (if you include the first two under the name “Fresh Fest”), Barrel and Flow is growing to become a destination cultural event, one that was chronicled in the 2019 documentary “A Fresh Perspective.”

“I can’t think of too many events that happen in the city – maybe the jazz festival, right, like that – that bring Black people from outside the city to come in and visit,” says Bracey. “Black people from California, from all across the country are putting ‘Pittsburgh’ on their calendar, in the summertime, to come spend vacation time and money here.”

The Independent caught up with Day to ask about this year’s fest, his favorite episodes of Drinking Partners, and what it’s like to be an outspoken Black man in Pittsburgh. Here are some excerpts from the conversation, edited for clarity and length. 

It’s been fascinating to see after so many years, people still seem – well, white people still seem to have trouble understanding what it is that you’re doing. So, for people who still don’t get it, could you explain how it’s possible to have a festival that’s devoted to Black breweries and Black business and Black culture, that at the same time is inclusive and welcoming to other people?

It’s the same way that the Greek festivals, the Italian festivals, the Polish festivals, the Oktoberfest’s and whatnot, you know, all those festivals, the same way we are celebrating those cultures. When we’re celebrating the Irish, or we’re celebrating the Germans, we’re not saying nobody else can be celebrated and nobody else can come do this. In fact, we’re inviting everyone to come in and celebrate German folks and celebrate Irish folks, and it’s the same thing with this Black Beer Festival.

We’re not saying nobody else can be celebrated and nobody else can come do this. In fact, we’re inviting everyone to come in and celebrate. Black folks helped build this country. We are part of the larger tapestry of this nation. We are inviting everyone to come in and celebrate our accomplishments and our square on the larger quilt, right? It means that everybody’s invited. In fact, it is better if everybody comes around and acknowledges that as opposed to just Black folks. Because for the longest time, you know, it’s been mostly Black folks celebrating Black folks. 

I feel like that’s especially important in Pittsburgh. And I know that something that’s been important to you for a long time now is keeping the festival based here in Pittsburgh. Why is that so important?

Because Black folks in Pittsburgh are struggling among the most in the country. You know, a statistic just came out that said that we had the least amount of Black-owned businesses in the entire country. You know, there’s statistics that show that this is the worst place in America for black women. It’s highly segregated. We have no Black middle class neighborhood in Pittsburgh. So, you know, of the major cities in America, Pittsburgh is in most need of the celebration of Black folks, as well as the camaraderie, the community, the networking. We are attracting Black youth, Black talent to the city for the first time in decades. And I think that it’s super important that Pittsburgh sees the benefit of nurturing Black talent.

What is your favorite method of potato preparation?

Man, I’ve had so many potatoes in the last couple of years, and they are all so nice. They are all so nice. But I’m going to have to say, uh, tots? Tater tots. They just, there’s something about them, man. You mince it and then you put it back together and then you fry them. I mean. It’s the texture. It’s nice and crunchy, but it’s also soft in the inside. And, they bite back, man. Don’t bite it until you’re ready. That motherfucker will bite right back, you know? You got to make sure you respect it’s time to cool off, and then you get right into that motherfucker. You top it with some chili and some cheese, if you’d like. I mean, that’s my favorite way to tot. But yeah, nah, man. Tater tots. 

It’s been cool, watching you [and Drinking Partners co-host, Ed Bailey] go from talking about beer, learning about beer, and then interviewing brewers to, you know, talking about bigger subjects, talking about society, talking with politicians. Is there any conversation or episode that sticks out in your mind for being especially memorable or for going off in some sort of unexpected direction?

If you just wanted to have a really good time, there’s the Mikey and Big Bob episode, where for like an hour straight we’re just cracking jokes. It’s like, getting them in the room between me and Ed,  we were used to playing off of each other, and between Mikey and Big Bob we were able to play off of each other as well. You get comedians in a room, and we just bounced the ball around for an hour. 

Day, Big Bob, Mikey, Ed. Photo: Buzzy Torek / Epicast.

Then there’s the Summer Lee / Sara Innamorato episode, and they just hit the ground running and we just got into the subject material and they were hype and just all about the hope and, you know, what we need to do. And it felt like this is where the Democratic Party should be going. Like, is the new wave. This is the new youth of the party. And, like, you know, it gave us hope. It gave us information. It kind of lit a fire. And we were like, yeah, let’s go out and like fucking change the world.

Day, Summer, Sara, Ed. Photo: Buzzy Torek / Epicast

The one episode that threw us for a fucking loop was the 100th episode. We had Fetterman here, and Rick Sebak, and it was like, that Saturday after Trump won the election, and everybody was on edge and nobody really wanted to say anything. 

Day, Ricky, Baron, John, Ed. Photo: Buzzy Torek / Epicast

That night, we’re there and it was just weird because it’s a mixed crowd. You know, all the white people were like, “oh, man, is this going to be a riot?” And all the black folks, everybody else was like, “man, are these white people going to be on some other shit?” Nobody was saying much of anything. Everybody was like, don’t say it, let’s just ignore it, and it was cool. 

We had Ricky Sebak out there. We had John Fetterman out there. And then Baron Batch came up, and he said some shit, then John said some shit and like, they started getting into it. I forget what he was saying, but Baron wasn’t having it. And it was like at that point, right, you break the whole “let’s not talk about Trump” thing. That’s broken. But then you got John Fetterman, who is a fucking giant, on some goddamn Nephilim type shit or whatever, then you’ve got a former Steelers running back sitting right next to him, who might come to blows. Who’s breaking that up? 

Rick Sebak?

I’m not breaking that shit up! So it got real tense, and at that point we had lost control of the podcast. It wasn’t our podcast anymore. These people are bigger than us, literally and figuratively. It ended up taking, somebody asked a question about like, America, and shit like that, and Rick Sebak just did the most Rick Sebak fucking thing, and he said some shit that was like, you know, he channeled Mr. Rogers and just said some, bring everybody together, kumbaya, yeah shit’s tough but we can make it together wisdom, and everybody was just like, yup, yup, we’re all fucking good again. And I was just like, that’s why Rick Sebak is fucking Rick Sebak. We just watched a professional do what a fucking professional does, and bring people back together after a tense moment. That was a podcast that went left, and Ricky Sebak brought it back right. 

Is it true that there are some episodes of Drinking Partners that have never aired?

Nope! [laughter]

Is it true that one episode never aired because the conversation kept coming back to a certain local nonprofit executive’s feet? 

I can neither confirm nor deny that, given the way that alcohol plays funny tricks on the brain, but there definitely have been some podcasts that were buried for the better. No one wants to hear me talk about feet for 90 minutes.